The first innovation myth we have always found ourselves confronting is at the heart and soul of every innovation endeavor: the WHY of innovation. The World, we find, has been seduced by the romance of innovation. Most managers interested in innovation have become mesmerized with NEWNESS to such an obsessive extent that 'What's new about this idea?' is almost always the first evaluative question. Orbit-shifting innovation starts by busting the newness myth and highlights that 'Orbit-shifting is the real passion and the driving purpose,' and 'innovation is merely the means to make the Orbit-shift happen.'
In the course of our innovation journey, we have come across many organizations that start by saying: 'The problem is not ideas, we have over 3,000 ideas – the problem is execution.' Digging deeper, what we have almost always uncovered is that what appears to be a multitude of ideas is rooted in only a very few and limited ways of thinking. The many ideas are often restricted to the conventional 'more of the same' tracks. This busts the myth that 'Innovation equals ideation.' In reality, we have found 'an Orbitshifting innovation emerges not with search for ideas but by recognizing boundaries.' What Erehwon brings alive is the realization that to create breakthroughs we need to move from 'ideation' to 'breaking through mental model boundaries'.
Orbit-shifting innovation surfaces the painful realization that most big ideas don't get killed; they just get diluted. It brings insights into overcoming execution obstacles. Most innovation journeys almost always end with the emergence of a powerful new idea. The strategists in organizations often believe they are the thinkers and that their role finishes with the identification of the big idea. The execution is left to the implementers. We need to bust this myth. 'As much, if not more, innovative thinking is needed to execute a new idea as was required to come up with it.'
Having assimilated the concept of Orbit-shifting innovation, what does it take to 'activate' it? This question has led us to bust another well established myth that 'breakthrough innovation starts with an out-of-the-box idea.' Orbit-shifting innovation, by design, does not start with an out-of-the-box idea; it really starts with an out-of-the-box challenge. An out-of-the-box challenge is what is needed to propel thinking beyond the current box to generate an Orbit-shifting idea. And in the process of busting this myth, we aim to provoke a positive restlessness in organizations, the restlessness needed to go beyond comfort zones and take on an Orbit-shift challenge. In our work with organizations, this 'Orbit-shift trigger' has by now inspired over a thousand Orbit-shifting challenges.
A common myth is that it is the fear of commercial failure that prevents the taking on of Orbit-shifting challenges. In reality, it is the fear of personal failure and the loss of credibility that prevents leaders in organizations from burning their bridges or removing their escape buttons.
Yet another myth is that if you want innovation to flourish, then you have to hire new people with new capabilities. In reality, a new person can rapidly get sucked into the gravity of the organization, very quickly delivering 'more of the same'. This myth is busted because we have seen a number of Orbit-shifts that have happened when existing teams and leaders have broken through their gravity to lead the organization towards a transformative impact. Hence, it is not about 'who' leads innovation. Instead, it is the organization's capacity to confront gravity that uplifts the pursuit of innovation. Rather than old or new people, it is the resourcing for innovation that is a rubber-hits-the-road moment. Many leaders commit to innovation, and yet under-resource during its pursuit. 'Spare people working in spare time seldom make Orbit-shifting innovation happen.' What organizations need is flexibility to guide a variety of innovations, based on their focus and context, rather than rigid structures of either full-time or part-time people chasing a challenge. Going beyond this rigidity, we provide a framework to define the extra-constitutional team and/or time focus needed to guide Orbit-shifting innovations.
The idea that market research, market trend studies and even direct consumer contacts will lead to a new market insight is another myth. Consumer insight is the new buzzword, and so most top managers go out to meet consumers. However, meeting consumers does not guarantee insight. The Erehwon approach shows how an insight gap exists because the lenses with which we engage consumers are jaded. Hence, we first need to renew our lenses. Leading orbit-shifting innovation needs an Orbit-shifting insight approach that is a quest for questions, and not a search for answers. Going further, the Orbit-shifting innovation approach opens up an 'insight spectrum' – a spectrum of insight sources going far beyond consumers. Engaging with this wide insight spectrum will take innovators beyond consumers to engage with ecosystem entities, domain experts and lateral experts. New insight sources are needed to open up new questions and join new dots. The greater the challenge, the wider the spectrum of the insight sources that needs to be engaged with.
Another myth is that the top management can mandate innovation. This myth has led CEOs to suppose that if they bring in the right experts or create an innovation department: innovation will be delivered. The reality is that innovation cannot be mandated because ownership and excitement cannot be mandated: people have to take charge. Hence, innovation is as much a leadership journey as it is a structural one. How do people who lead innovation inspire others to also believe in the new idea, the new proposition, with as much commitment as they do? How can they get key stakeholders to be owners rather than just presiders or evaluators of the innovation journey? How do leaders get implementers to execute the new idea with the same passion that it was conceived with? It is about moving them from managing innovation to unleashing innovation.
The final myth, and in our experience the biggest source of dilution, is that: 'Once the big idea has been developed into a working prototype, then taking it to market is a simple case of Test and Launch.' But a new idea entering the old pipeline may suffer its greatest dilution in the last mile. 'Taking to market' is usually done with the conventional approach of piloting in one market and then simply cascading the formula to other markets. Erehwon brings insight into taking the orbit-shifting idea to market with a 'versioning mindset' instead, which is about 'how to make it work', rather than the conventional piloting mindset that is rooted in the 'go or no-go' – lets see if it works mindset.
Orbit-shifting is the compass to navigate the fog of innovation in all its messiness, uncertainties, complexities, paradoxes and ambiguities, not just a sanitized formula or a tool or a process for innovation. A compass that doesn't stop at conception but that navigates an orbit-shift end to end: from conception all the way to realization.
It will compel and empower businesses, social enterprises and even governments to break through boundaries and pursue impossible challenges with orbit-shifting innovation.